Choosing the Right Test

If you’re choosing to be screened for HIV, you may have done prior research before seeking medical aid. There’s a lot of information online available about HIV testing and screening; what test is better to choose to determine if you’re HIV positive? Different tests provide different information, and some are better for diagnosis in different situations.

The HIV Antibody Test

After the date of infection, it can take between 2 weeks and 6 months for HIV antibodies to appear in your bloodstream. The presence of the virus triggers a response from your body to produce antibodies; these are what are tested in a HIV antibody test. This has become the most commonly used test and offers reliable results, and it’s what we offer for free at UNM Truman.

Most antibody tests require drawing blood, but oral tests are being developed with increasingly improving rates of accuracy. Antibody tests are usually done 3 months after exposure, allowing the body time to develop antibodies if the virus has entered the system.

The PCR Test

In certain cases, antibody tests can be confused. Pregnant women who are HIV-positive can pass on their HIV antibodies to their infant children. Newborns receive antibodies from their mothers during pregnancy and through breast milk to provide them protection against many diseases. If an HIV-positive mother gives birth, her child may test as HIV-positive from an antibody test.

A DNA-PCR test can provide a more accurate diagnosis. It doesn’t look for antibodies, but tests for the DNA of the virus itself in the white blood cells. An antibody test will only provide accurate results on children after they’re 18 months of age; with the PCR test, an infant can be checked to accurately determine their HIV status.